Importing Motor Vehicles to Australia

Any person may import a motor vehicle or a motorcycle into Australia.

If you plan to drive the vehicle on Australia's roads it is essential that you contact the vehicle standard Branch before importing the vehicle to ensure that the vehicle can meet the safety requirements and to obtain a permission to import the vehicle.
To apply for a "Motor Vehicle Import Approval" just click the following link to the Government Regulations website

Customs Duty, GST and Luxury Car Tax (LCT)

The Customs Duty is payable on the Customs Value (value at the place of export, as defined in the Customs Act) of the vehicle at a rate of 5% for cars and 5% for 4WDs (as defined in the relevant Act) and GST is paid on the Value of Taxable Importation (as defined in the Act). This value is the customs value + freight and insurance + customs duty.

Luxury Car Tax, which is payable in addition to Customs Duty and GST. Where the Value of Taxable Importation exceeds the "Luxury" threshold, Luxury Car Tax at the rate of 33% is paid on the amount by which the value exceeds the threshold. The threshold value of Value of Taxable Importation is $ 57,180 current as at 2009/2010.

We suggest that you view the Australian Customs Service Page on http://www.customs.gov.au as it is the official source of information. The "Guide to the Importation of Privately Owned Motor Vehicles or Motor Cycles", which is downloadable from that Web Page, is particularly useful, as they give an example of the valuation calculations.

All privately imported vehicles are subject to the same rates of Customs duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) and, where applicable, Luxury Car Tax (LCT) as commercially imported vehicles. The Customs duty is based on the Customs value of the vehicle.

The rate of Customs duty payable is that which applies to the particular type of vehicle on the date it is entered for Customs purposes in Australia. GST and, where applicable, LCT applies at the date you import the vehicle into Australia. Without a permission to import, which can be obtained from the Vehicle standards safety Branch a special duty of $12,000 may apply. http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/roads/vehicle_regulation/bulletin/importing_vehicles/index.aspx

As Customs duty varies according to vehicle design and value, and is subject to change, you should contact a Customs office before importing any vehicle into Australia.

Prior to making a decision to import your vehicle you should take into account the costs involved in the process such as: freight, Customs duties and entry processing charges, steam cleaning for quarantine purposes, other wharf and transport charges and any costs involved in having the vehicle meet state or territory registration requirements (whether your vehicle will indeed meet these requirements should be checked prior to importation).

Valuing your vehicle for Customs purposes

The Customs value of imported private motor vehicles and motor cycles (whether new or used) is assessed in the following way:

The Transaction Value Method

The Customs value of new or second hand privately imported motor vehicles or motor cycles will ordinarily be calculated using the "transaction value" method. Under this method the Customs value is based on the "price actually paid or payable" for the vehicle or cycle in a bona fide sale where the price is not influenced by any other factor.

This method will be used where the importer can show that the vehicle or cycle was purchased to be exported to Australia. The transaction value method will not be used where there is insufficient or unreliable information regarding the purchase.

In determining the Customs Value, certain adjustments may be made to the price paid by the importer to have the vehicle or cycle brought to Australia (eg. the deduction of overseas freight and insurance).

Alternate Methods of Valuation

When the "transaction value" method cannot be used to determine Customs Value, the alternate methods of valuation, as set out in Section 159 of the Customs Act will be applied in sequential order.
Where the Fall-Back alternate method is used, Customs will usually accept as the basis for determining the Customs Value, the landed cost of the vehicle or cycle in Australia as assessed by a person qualified in valuing such vehicles and cycles. Customs may then make certain deductions to determine the Customs Value of the vehicle or cycle.

The valuation procedures outlined above are applied by Customs to privately imported motor vehicles and motor cycles purchased by the importer on or after 2 March 1998. The previous set of valuation guidelines used for motor vehicles and motor cycles purchased by the importer prior to 2 March 1998 are contained in the 'Guide to the Importation of Privately Owned Motor Vehicles and Motor Cycles' included below.

Conversion to Australian currency

The Customs value of your vehicle is calculated in Australian dollars. Where it is necessary to convert any prices, costs, etc. from a foreign currency to Australian dollars, the conversion will be based on that rate of exchange in effect in Australia on the date of exportation of your vehicle to Australia.

Concessions for tourists and temporary residents

As a tourist or temporary resident, you may bring a motor vehicle or a motorcycle and attached trailer or a caravan to Australia for a period of up to 12 months (or longer under certain circumstances) without paying duty on them, provided they are subsequently exported from Australia.

For this concession to apply, you will need one of the following:

  • a Carnet De Passages en Douanes issued by an overseas organisation which has a reciprocal arrangement with the Australian Automobile Association, or
  • a cash or bank security, equal to the amount of duty and GST and, where applicable, LCT otherwise payable.

If your vehicle is stolen, damaged or destroyed whilst you are in Australia you should notify Customs as soon as possible at your original port of arrival.

All fittings and accessories imported with your motor vehicle, motorcycle, trailer or caravan must also be exported with that same vehicle.

Quarantine

To prevent the entry of diseases, noxious weeds and insect pests into Australia, Quarantine inspect all vehicles on arrival and may require them to be properly cleaned. This is usually effected by steam cleaning. You should remove all soil and any other matter from your vehicle (including the underside) prior to exportation to Australia.

It is often cheaper and more convenient to have the car thoroughly cleaned before shipment than after arrival in Australia. Vacuuming of the inside, including the boot, washing the outside and steam cleaning underneath is recommended.

Vehicles manufactured in Australia

You may import an Australian manufactured motor vehicle or a motorcycle without paying Customs duty on it, providing you have owned and used the vehicle overseas and there are no outstanding Australian duties, taxes or charges owing on it.

However, you will be required to pay GST and, where applicable, LCT on the vehicle if no GST or applicable LCT was paid when the vehicle was originally exported from Australia.

Motor Vehicle Standards Act

The Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989, which is administered by the Vehicle Safety Standards Branch, came into effect on 1 August 1989. Under this legislation it is an offence to import any new or secondhand vehicle unless:

it meets the safety and emissions standards applying to vehicles to be used on Australian roads, or
arrangements are in place to modify the vehicle to meet these requirements after its arrival in Australia.
Before importing any vehicle it is essential that you ensure it will be able to be delivered in Australia by contacting the Vehicle safety standards branch http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/roads/vehicle_regulation/bulletin/importing_vehicles/index.aspx

They are the only body who can issue permits to import motor vehicles from overseas

Please note, the Department of Transport and Regional Services advises that the only exemption from the Import Approval requirement is for vehicles returning to Australia where the owner of the vehicle at the time of its return was also the owner at the time of its exportation.

Clearance formalities

You will be required to complete all the formalities to clear your motor vehicle through Customs at the port of importation. To avoid any delays, please have available documents such as passport, driver's licence, purchase and transportation documents, bills of sale, registration and insurance papers, service records and log books.

Vehicle registration

Customs has no control or authority over motor vehicle or motorcycle specifications or registration requirements in Australia.

Before bringing your vehicle to Australia, you should check with the motor registration Branch of the State or Territory where it is intended to be registered to ensure that it will meet their registration requirements.

Vehicles can be temporarily imported and legally driven on Australian roads for the period of carnet validity (or temporary importation period) provided registration is still current in the vehicle's country of origin.

Requirements At a Glance

Motor vehicles imported into Australia must comply with the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989; this is the same requirement for vehicles built in Australia.

The information listed here is a brief overview for importing a Motor Car or similar vehicle. For more specific information we suggest you e-mail us.

Will Your Car Be Allowed Into Australia?

When importing a used car there a number of important points to note.

  1. The vehicle will not be cleared by the Australian Customs Service without approval of the Commonwealth Department of Transport and Regional Services (DoTRS).
  2. Vehicles that are at least 15 years old do not have to meet the requirements of the Motor Vehicle Standards Act, but still need DoTRS approval.
  3. To import a vehicle under 15 years old
     
    1. You must have owned the vehicle for at least 12 continuous months immediately prior to it's arrival in Australia, and,
    2. You must be of driving age and be an Australian citizen or a migrant with permanent residency, and,
    3. The vehicle is fitted with an Australian compliance plate,
      OR
      A letter of compliance has been issued by the Australian importer,
      OR
      The vehicle will be modified to meet Australian Design Rules after arrival.
       
    4. There are a limited number of companies in Australia approved to make the necessary modifications and then affix a compliance plate. A written agreement with one of these companies must be in place prior to importation.
       
  4. Specialist & Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVS). There are a variety of categories under which particular vehicles can be imported. For full details of entry requirements we recommend that you visit the DoTRS Web Page on http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/roads/vehicle_regulation/bulletin/importing_vehicles/index.aspx
    before purchasing a vehicle.

This information is current as of January 2009 and is only intended as a guide. If you need more information or you are not sure of the requirements that apply to you, email information@customs.gov.au. You can also contact a Customs Information Centre on 1300 363 263 from anywhere in Australia or +61 2 6275 6666 from outside Australia